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Looking for a job? Consider moving to Canada.
Surprising data from our neighbor to the north showed that Canada actually added more than 30,000 jobs in September. The country's unemployment rate dropped from 8.7% in August to 8.4% last month. Compare that to the U.S., which lost 263,000 jobs in September. The domestic unemployment rate rose to 9.8%, and will likely move higher in the coming months.
Don't forget us, eh?
It almost seems unfair. The Canadian economy is growing and adding jobs, while the U.S. is languishing in its highest rate of unemployment in decades. But this trend shouldn't come as that much of a surprise. As the global economy struggles back to life, foreign markets are righting themselves much more quickly than their counterparts here in the U.S. Back in August, Germany and France, the two biggest economies in the Eurozone, both announced that their economies had grown during the second quarter of 2009. Odds are good that foreign markets will continue to lead the way out of the current economic black hole, while the domestic economy lags.
But in the rush of excitement over red-hot emerging markets like China and Brazil, and even more staid and steady developed markets like Japan and the U.K., it seems that the land of maple leaves and Mounties is frequently forgotten. Unfortunately, Canada is often considered merely an extension of the U.S., rather than being recognized for the stand-alone economic powerhouse that it truly is. Many foreign funds eschew the country in favor of more exotic investments. However, especially during this time of global recovery, investors ignore Canadian investing opportunities at their own peril.
Jobs aren't the only thing heating up to the north. The Canadian stock market has had a pretty good run lately as well. The iShares MSCI Canada Index ETF (NYSE: EWC ) has posted a gain of more than 50% year to date. It's more than 20 percentage points ahead of the already strong returns of the foreign market tracker MSCI EAFE Index. This outsized performance has been fueled in part by strong performance from top financial holdings such as Royal Bank of Canada (NYSE: RY ) , Toronto-Dominion Bank (NYSE: TD ) , and Bank of Nova Scotia (NYSE: BNS ) , all of which are up 75% or more this year.
If you're looking to hone in on some of Canada's best investment opportunities, one of the few actively managed funds that focuses exclusively on our North American partner is Fidelity Canada (FICDX). This fund looks for attractively priced Canadian stocks with a decent rate of growth.
Right now, management likes what it sees in the financial sector, which accounts for nearly one-third of assets. Energy is also getting a lot of play here, with big bets on Suncor Energy (NYSE: SU ) and Canadian Natural Resources (NYSE: CNQ ) . Industrials are also heavy in the rotation here, including precious-metals companies such as Goldcorp (NYSE: GG ) and Barrick Gold (NYSE: ABX ) .
Fund returns over the past 15 years have been stellar, with a 10.5% annualized gain, placing the fund in the top 1% of all foreign large-blend funds. Now that's what I call bringing home the (Canadian) bacon!
Spreading your bets
Of course, single-country funds are a risky way to get exposure to foreign markets. While the Fidelity Canada fund has many points in its favor, including reasonable expenses, the fund's singular focus means that risk will be higher here than in more diversified international offerings. Fortunately, there are several broader-thinking foreign funds that include a hefty dose of Canadian flavor.
For example, T. Rowe Price International Stock (PRITX) has approximately 6% of its assets in Canadian names. On the exchange-traded fund front, the SPDR S&P International Dividend ETF (NYSE: DWX ) , which seeks out dividend-producing stocks, currently devotes 9% of assets to Canada. Even some domestic stock funds are getting in on the Canadian love -- two Canadian stocks currently top the list of holdings of small-cap fund Royce Low-Priced Stock (RYLPX). So there are plenty of more diversified ways for you to cash in on the rebound taking place north of U.S. borders.
Ultimately, Canada may not sound as exciting as some far-flung tropical locales, but it holds a wealth of well-developed and well-capitalized companies. Investors may want to consider dusting off their passports and heading north sometime soon.